Millions of Americans tuned in last Tuesday to watch the first presidential debate of 2020. Marybeth Lennox-Levins, associate professor and sport management program coordinator, was one of many who were left stunned by the display seen on the screen.
“It was a bit like running into a brick wall with how quickly and immediately I felt frustrated by the bulldozing President Trump was doing,” she said. “It was so clear, at least to me, that we were in for a night of bullying.”
Castleton University senior Oliver Rodgers agreed with Lennox-Levins.
“It was truly appalling that the leader of our country was behaving like a bully, not letting Biden finish his thoughts and interrupting both him and the moderator. I was pretty disgusted,” he said.
“Bullying” was a common word seen around social media after President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met on stage to hash out their plans for the next four years. Instead, the American people were met with bickering and little clarity on what each candidate plans to do for the country.
Patrick Lucey, president of Castleton University’s student government association, was disappointed.
“Regardless if you are democrat or republican, school children can debate better,” he said.
Right off the bat, there was a common theme of Trump, Biden and moderator Chris Wallace talking over each other. Both candidates were guilty of interrupting each other, but many believe it was Trump who was the main aggressor.
“Trump knew that if he actually followed the rules he agreed to, if he actually took turns and allowed Chris Wallace and Biden to speak, that he would get crushed in that debate. He had no other option but to act like he did; to abuse Chris Wallace, to abuse the debate process, and to throw civility out the window,” Lennox-Levins said in a Facebook post following the debate.
There were many instances throughout the debate where Wallace was clearly frustrated with Trump’s behavior.
Some were upset with how Trump is supposed to represent the country, yet his actions set a bad example. Rodgers said Trump is almost justifying behaving in an aggressive manner.
“By behaving like that on national television, he’s modeling bad behavior for the leader of a nation,” he said.
Antonio Mannino, a sophomore at Castleton, proposed the two-party system should be changed. He thinks there should be more options to choose from.
“That whole thing was a disaster but hopefully went to show how important it is to prioritize outside parties. Everybody is saying these are the two best we have when it doesn’t need to be a two-party system,” he said. “This leaves us with what the country just witnessed. Two schoolchildren insulting each other to determine who leads the country.”
For many, the debate was like nothing seen before. Rich Clark, program coordinator of political science at Castleton University, has seen many presidential debates.
“Voters who tuned in to see a brawl were not disappointed, but those who hoped to learn more about candidates’ positions on issues were terribly disappointed,” Clark said.
As for the next debate between Trump and Biden, people are hoping for a change of rules. Lennox-Levins hopes the two candidates will give a better idea for plans for the future of the country. She also wondered if the Commission on Debates will have control over the microphones.
However, Clark said the rules can only change if both campaigns agree, and Trump has already said no to any changes.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I hope I never do again,” Clark said.
In an effort to provide a variety of viewpoints on the debate, inquiries were posted to social media looking for complimentary comments on Trump’s debate performance. The Spartan did not receive any responses to the post.